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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

January 4, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY (MODERATOR): We shall now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. We will begin with an opening statement from the Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Happy new year. I would like to begin today with my sincere wish that this will be a wonderful year for all of you.

Here at the start of the new year, I would like to state three principles regarding the type of nation I seek to create.

These three aims are, to make 2011 the base year for launching a 21st-century opening up of Japan; to achieve a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum; and to engage in politics that rectifies matters that are absurd. Currently a significant number of countries around the world have been enjoying ongoing growth and are poised to catch up with and overtake Japan. In speaking with the leaders of such countries, time and again I have been told that they have been making these efforts setting Japan as their goal and taking Japan as their model. Indeed, Japan can be said to have served as a "big brother" providing financial and technical assistance to a large number of countries thus far. I intend for Japan to support the growth of such countries into the future as well. At the same time, I consider it necessary now for us to utilize the energy of those countries as the energy of Japan, thereby leading to growth in Japan.

To achieve this I will accelerate the liberalization of trade. At the same time, I will advance the revitalization of agriculture in which young people are able to participate. These two undertakings must be carried out. I intend to make the year 2011 the base year from which we launch such an opening up of Japan, not focusing solely on people, goods, and capital, but rather on the Japanese people as a whole turning internationally, as occurred in the Meiji Restoration and in the postwar era. In order to move forward with this opening up of Japan, what will be critical above all is the minimization of factors leading to human suffering, including poverty and unemployment. Insecurity about the future of the social security system is spreading. In last year's House of Councillors election campaign, I was unable to gain sufficient understanding among the public regarding the consumption tax, as I had touched upon it somewhat abruptly, but it is readily apparent to all that it is now necessary to discuss the state of social security and the fiscal resources necessary for it, as well as the reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax. Fortunately, the Liberal Democratic Party and The New Komeito Party have both indicated their willingness to do so. I believe that now is the time for us to take up these issues. I intend to initiate discussions that transcend party lines, including discussions on the issue of fiscal resources, in order to consolidate a solidly-established system of social security. I urge participation by members of the opposition parties as well.

In the area of security issues in Asia and the Pacific, our actions must take into account the security and stability of this region as a whole, rather than benefit only Japan. I will press forward with the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance from the perspective that this reinforcement is necessary precisely to ensure stability in just such an Asia-Pacific region.

As we pursue the opening up of Japan in this way, there is one more thing that must be considered. That is for us to address squarely those matters that the public considers absurd.

When I learned that a substantial number of human remains still lie on the island of Ioto, a part of the Tokyo Metropolis, I found it inexplicable how such a situation had come to be. Upon becoming Prime Minister, I established a task force team that conducted research at United States' public records offices and thereby succeeded in locating a large burial site. The other day a memorial ceremony was held which I myself attended. It is the responsibility of the nation to return the remains to their families.

In addition, young people find that even upon graduation there are no jobs to be had. People having babies find that there are no places to take care of their children. And, insufficient financial allowances are provided to those suffering from various intractable diseases. I also intend to address issues such as these in a thorough manner. I myself have been addressing these issues, through the convening of task force teams. Amongst matters such as these that can be considered absurd, for those issues regarding which it is appropriate for me to be directly engaged, I will be resolutely assembling new task force teams in the future as well.

As for one more matter that is absurd, there is also the issue of "money politics." The very first House of Representatives election in which I was a candidate was the one dubbed the "Lockheed Election." I first stood for office at the age of 30 in the belief that unless something was done about "money politics," democracy in Japan would head in the wrong direction.

"Money politics" is even at present viewed by the public with a sense of suspicion. As we advance numerous reforms into the future, it is simply unacceptable to have the public partake in this pain. I intend to make this the year in which we firmly draw the line regarding the issue of such "money politics." I will also endeavor to have former [DPJ] President [Ichiro] Ozawa provide a thorough explanation at the Diet regarding his own issues in this area.

As a final point I would like to speak about the Diet. I myself served for many years as a member of the opposition and at times I criticized the government harshly. This is because through such endeavors, I hoped to show to the public the inconsistencies in the policies of the administrations of the time.

Yet as I look back upon it now, I feel that in some cases my party or indeed I myself may have been too focused on the political situation and our deliberations on policy may not have been sufficient in every case. With the change of government having occurred more than once, essentially all political parties now have the experiences of having been both a governing party and an opposition party. The Diet regrettably focusing on such things as calling for the dissolution of the Diet or the resignation of the entire Cabinet for political ends, rather than on policy deliberations, means that it is not necessarily living up to the expectations of the public. We [of the DPJ] also regret this. In such a context, I wish to transcend the lines of the ruling and opposition parties to forge an orientation in which, in the eyes of the public, and in the eyes of you in the media, the Diet is seen as earnestly determining policies for the sake of the people of Japan without regard for party lines.

Against such a backdrop, there are two points in particular regarding which I would like to make specific requests. The first of these is that the content of the questions to be asked at the Diet be presented at least 24 hours prior to their being asked. For the sessions of the Budget Committee and elsewhere during the previous extraordinary Diet session, there were time constraints in that it was all I could do to arise at 5 AM on the days of the Committee sessions to read through and get a firm grasp of the questions submitted on the previous day. Under such circumstances it is not possible to have discussions in the real sense of the word. In the United Kingdom, the convention is to submit a summary of the points of inquiry three days in advance, so I would like by all means to reach agreement, regardless of ruling or opposition party, on the submission of the contents of questions at least 24 hours in advance.

In addition, international conferences and the like are extremely important, and they are even strongly asserted to be an opportunity for ideas to be sold at the very highest levels. When it is in the national interest for Cabinet members to travel abroad in such cases, we should dispatch the Ministers by adjusting the schedule of the Diet as necessary, as a matter that transcends ruling or opposition party. I would very much like to engender such a customary practice as well.

Such matters are the very roles of the Diet itself and, at the same time, they are more in keeping with what the Diet should be, in the view of both the public and the media. I would very much appreciate hearing proactive third-party perspectives regarding such matters.

These are my thoughts as we begin the new year. For the remainder I would like to take questions from the floor. Thank you very much for listening.


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I would like to move into questions. I will designate who will ask the questions. If you are selected, please first state your media affiliation and name before posing your question.
Mr. Matsuyama, please.

REPORTER: Happy new year to you, Mr. Prime Minister. I am Matsuyama with the Fuji Television Network.
Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to inquire about a Cabinet reshuffle. You mentioned that you would adopt a high-powered system going into the ordinary Diet session. When do you envision adjusting the makeup of your Cabinet, and on what points will you be placing emphasis? In addition, in undertaking a Cabinet reshuffle, do you envisage an increase over the current number of Ministers? And, are you also considering revamping the organization of the party leadership? In the context of the opposition parties indicating their stance that they will not participate in Diet deliberations, with regard to the censure of Ministers [Yoshito] Sengoku and [Sumio] Mabuchi, have you given any consideration to replacing them, should this be deemed an impediment to Diet deliberations?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The ordinary session of the Diet is the forum for deliberating the budget, which is the most important thing in the daily lives of the public. I want to conduct thorough deliberations on that budget and pass it as expeditiously as possible in order to make a positive contribution to people's daily lives. My fundamental stance is to create the strongest possible system heading towards that goal. As you mentioned, in order to do so, various elements must be considered, and I will carefully consider the specific issues further, taking this as my fundamental orientation.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question now, please. Mr. Yamashita, please.

REPORTER: I'm Yamashita with the Hokkaido Shimbun.
I would like to ask about the issue of summoning former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa to the Diet. Mr. Ozawa has indicated his position that he will appear at the Political Ethics Hearing Committee either at the very start of the ordinary Diet session or after the passage of the budget, depending on the state of affairs in the Diet. Mr. Prime Minister, are you sticking to your stance of calling for his appearance strictly without any conditions before the start of the ordinary Diet? If Mr. Ozawa maintains such a position of appearing only under such conditions, how do you intend to deal with that? Do you also foresee a vote of the Political Ethics Hearing Committee [to require Mr. Ozawa's appearance before the Committee] or, beyond that, him being summoned to testify under oath? In addition, should Mr. Ozawa face mandatory indictment, are you considering as President of the DPJ recommending that Mr. Ozawa leave the party or rendering an expulsion? Please share your thoughts on this.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Mr. Ozawa has himself stated that he will explain the matter at the Diet, and I would like for him to take actions in accordance with those words. Should there actually be an indictment, I believe that he should clarify his future course of action as a politician, and if he is going to focus his energies on the trial, then he should do so.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question, then. The gentleman over there, please.

REPORTER: I'm Wada with the Fuji Television Network.
I believe that in achieving objectives, the timetable for them is extremely important. As for the reform of the consumption tax, the reform of social security, and the issue of the relocation of Futenma Air Station, matters which you touched upon just briefly earlier, what is the schedule you anticipate for reaching a conclusion?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As I stated earlier, I consider social security and its related fiscal resources, which include the reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax, to all be an integrated whole. Within my party, such an approach has also been established as party policy, and a large number of other parties are also calling for discussing together [across party lines] the system of social security and the accompanying issue of fiscal resources. In light of these orientations, the issue is not which of these [(i.e., reform of the social security system or addressing fiscal resource issues)] should come first.
As for the issue of Futenma, I believe that this is an issue that must move forward on the basis of the May 28 agreement between Japan and the U.S., and yet at the same time, the issue that military bases in Okinawa have remained in greater numbers than those on the mainland for quite some time is something that Japan as a whole must take to heart and consider. I intend to engage proactively in reducing [Okinawa's] burden to the greatest extent possible, in conjunction with this.

REPORTER (WADA): What I would like to inquire about is the timing at which you will reach a final decision regarding each of these objectives.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for the issue of social security and related fiscal resources, if possible I hope to convene consultations transcending party lines, including both the ruling and the opposition parties, at as early a time as possible. In addition, I hope to indicate a direction forward taking sometime around June as a goal.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, the next question, then, please. Mr. Matsuura, go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Matsuura with Kyodo News.
Should there arise a situation in this divided Diet in which budget-related bills were unable to be passed regardless of all efforts, would dissolving the House of Representatives to call a general election become one of your options?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The thought of dissolution has not even entered my mind.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next I would like to take a question from the foreign press. Mr. Hirokawa, please.

REPORTER: I am Hirokawa with Bloomberg.
I would like to inquire about the TPP issue. I think that this issue can be considered the litmus test for measuring the degree to which you really mean the "21st-century opening of Japan" that you have set forth. Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku has indicated his view that it would be desirable for Japan to determine whether or not it will participate in negotiations in roughly June, when the Basic Policy on Agricultural Reform will be compiled. Mr. Prime Minister, by approximately when do you plan to take a decision on this issue, on whether or not to participate in negotiations? Also, in order to obtain the understanding of the farmers who will be significantly impacted by this, how will you be explaining the matter, and what kinds of measures are you intending to put forth? Please explain these to us.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: We are currently examining the concrete measures that, should we participate in the TPP, would be necessary to address agricultural concerns. Taking into account those discussions, I consider roughly June to be one goal for making a final determination. I would like such a situation to arise at as early a time as possible.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'll take the next question now. All right, Mr. Yamaguchi, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Yamaguchi with NHK.
Mr. Prime Minister, at the recent extraordinary session of the Diet, you called for dialogue within a deliberative Diet. Will you be continuing that orientation in approaching this ordinary session of the Diet as well? Also, the LDP is shoring up its adversarial stance and is not likely to abandon its refusal to participate in Diet deliberations from the beginning. In such a case, will that bring about a confrontational situation? Please share your thoughts on such matters.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: While I stated my fundamental view in my opening remarks as well, the Diet to some extent has the aspect of grappling for power, insofar as political parties are involved. Yet while this is unavoidable, in looking at advanced nations in which changes of government occur repeatedly, for example in the United Kingdom and other such countries, when there is newly a change in government the next election is held generally speaking five years later. Debates take place, but debates immediately afterward calling for the administration to step down or continue on are quite unusual. In a great many countries, once the government changes hands, the governing party holds the reins of government for a certain period of time. They undertake their policies for several years and then on the occasion of the subsequent election put the question to the citizens. I think that this is a constructive way for changes of government to operate. In that light, my stance of expecting thorough discussion of policy issues has not changed fundamentally.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I'll take the next question. Mr. Igarashi, go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Igarashi of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Mr. Prime Minister, you said just now with regard to the issue of former [DPJ] President Ozawa that, should he be indicted, then he should clarify his future course of action as a politician and that if he intends to concentrate on the trial, then he should concentrate on the trial. Is it correct to take this to mean that you are saying he should resign as a legislator?
Also, you said that in rectifying absurdities, that you yourself would be undertaking these efforts. What actions do you wish to take concerning the Ozawa issue?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: In 1980, the year in which I was first elected to office, former Prime Minister [Kakuei] Tanaka was called the "Shadow Shogun." To this day I still recall that seeing that situation strengthened further the feeling I had that Japanese politics had to be changed.
In that sense, this situation goes beyond the question of who should do what, and in my view, for such issues, within Japan's political society we really need to break away from this situation in which the issue of money needs to be discussed. In light of this, I stated that should Mr. Ozawa be indicted, it would be desirable that Mr. Ozawa himself decide his own future course of action at that time, after he himself also takes these issues into consideration.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Another question, please. Mr. Uesugi, please.

REPORTER: I am Takashi Uesugi, a freelancer.
The expression "the base year for opening up Japan" is one that I like very much, as it really resonated with me. Since your days in the opposition party you have been appealing for information disclosure, and now you call for being "clean" and "open." What I would really like to ask regarding that point is, from the perspective of information disclosure, you had promised to disclose the Cabinet Secretariat's "secret funds," create new press conferences by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and make these press conferences conducted by you yourself open in an equitable way [in terms of access to all members of the press], and I think that perhaps the time has more or less come for you to uphold these pledges.
You yourself mentioned that you would like Mr. Ozawa to follow through on what he has said. So today I would like you to tell us whether or not you yourself will indeed follow through on these matters.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for the state of press conferences, having received on several occasions at these press conferences questions, or should I say proposals, I have approached my own press conferences with the stance that they should be as open as possible. At Cabinet meetings and ministers' meetings I have also been encouraging each minister to approach the matter taking that same orientation, to the extent possible.
As for the issue of the Cabinet Secretariat's "secret funds," there are various background matters and judgments involved, so I will deal with this matter through sufficiently aligning the way of thinking between the approaches of myself and the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'd like to take the next question, then. Mr. Goto, please.

REPORTER: I'm Goto with the Jiji Press and I would like to ask about the budget proposal for the 2011 fiscal year.
As of the end of 2010, Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku and [DPJ] Secretary-General [Katsuya] Okada mentioned the possibility of revisions. Do you share that view, Mr. Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: From the standpoint of someone who formulated the budget, I can say that a Cabinet decision was taken on this budget because it was the most appropriate for the Japanese people. At the same time, there is another major element, in that we wish to gain the understanding in the Diet of a large number of legislators from other parties, and to obtain approval from an even greater number of legislators, if possible. I will determine my handling of the situation keeping both of these points in mind.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question, please. Mr. Sakajiri, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I am Sakajiri with the Asahi Shimbun. I have a question about cooperation with opposition parties.
In the closing days of 2010, there emerged talk of a coalition with the Sunrise Party of Japan, with this ending in the result that a coalition had been rejected by the Sunrise Party side. In light of this circumstance, in the days ahead it may be quite difficult to get some means to forge cooperation with opposition parties. Will you now be giving up on a coalition, instead aiming to follow a path of partial alliance regarding individual policy areas, or will you continue to seek a path of forming a coalition government with opposition parties with whom you can coordinate? Please tell us which of these you intend to pursue.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Including the various efforts of 2010, I am of the understanding that we have been moving forward taking as the basis the matter of whether or not we could work together in policy areas. That stance remains the same towards all parties in the upcoming Diet session as well.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right then, we'll take the next question. Mr. Aoyama, please.

REPORTER: I'm Aoyama of the Nippon Television Network.
Just now you said with regard to a Cabinet reshuffle that from now on you would like to give further careful consideration to specific matters. As a point of fact, in specific terms, a censure motion has already been passed against Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku. However, under the current circumstances, it is entirely possible that in the ordinary Diet session as well, censure motions could arise repeatedly and pass repeatedly. I think that the type of stance by which the Kan administration will approach the censure motion at the current stage, before the ordinary Diet session at which the budget will be deliberated, is a perspective of extreme importance, and I would like to hear your current thoughts on this.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Numerous ways of thinking from various experts have been indicated to me to serve as a reference to me. To cite an example, in the House of Representatives there is what is termed a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, and you are all well aware that should such a motion be passed, the provisions are that either the entire Cabinet resign or, alternately, the House of Representatives be dissolved. However, in the case of censure in the House of Councillors, even should it be passed against the Cabinet, this does not result in having to choose between resignation and dissolution. That is to say, there are no provisions in the Constitution for the dissolution of the House of Councillors.
What this means is that, should there be a censure motion passed in the House of Councillors and were that to therefore mean that [the Cabinet] must immediately resign, then [the House of Councillors] would thereby have greater authority than the House of Representatives. I have come to be aware of the view that, judging from the current structure of the Constitution, the current Constitution is not necessarily designed to realize this. Regardless, I feel that it is good to have forums in which such opinions can be discussed, both within the parties and within the Diet.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right then, I'll take the next question. The gentleman in the far back, please, over there.

REPORTER: I am Saito, with Rakuno Keizai Tsuushin, a specialty journal.
Earlier, you used the expression "opening up the country." From the perspective of making the opening of the country fully compatible with the revitalization of agriculture, it is possible that from now there will be the view that both domestic countermeasures and large-scale fiscal measures, including [measures to address] the burden on the Japanese public, will become necessary. Such points will be discussed in the future at the Headquarters [to Promote the Revival of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Industries] and the Council [for the Realization of the Revival of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Industries], with, as you said earlier, [a conclusion] scheduled to be reached by June. Would it be correct to think that during the formulation of the Basic Policy, discussions will also be held on revisions to the tax system and related matters?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I believe that it will be necessary to discuss an entire spectrum of relevant matters as we work towards the revival of Japanese agriculture. At the same time, as I stated previously, at present, the challenges facing Japanese agriculture include such issues as the fact that, for example, the average age of persons engaged in agriculture is 66, making it difficult to have opportunities for young people to engage in agriculture even when they desire to.
Concurrently with this, we must move forward still further in terms of how management is conducted, by which agriculture shifts to what is called a "senary," or sixth-order, industry. In this regard, naturally various public finance issues could come up, or perhaps must necessarily come up in some cases. However, rather than have things progress in that way, what instead could be done regarding the fundamental structure of agriculture that would result in something that is open to the world? What I feel quite profoundly is that a large number of non-Japanese come to Japan and say that Japanese cuisine is simply unrivaled in taste. People also often say to me that Japanese food eclipses all others in being both safe and tasty. In light of this I believe that it is possible to have agriculture transition into an open type of agriculture.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We have now gone beyond our scheduled time, so this will be the last question. The gentleman over there, please.

REPORTER: I am Inafuku, with the Ryukyu Shimpo.
Earlier you spoke about wanting to clear away absurdities, and I believe that the fact that U.S. military bases are concentrated in Okinawa is also one of these absurdities.
Even if [U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma] were to be relocated to Henoko as laid out in the May agreement between Japan and the U.S., it would not change the situation that [U.S. military bases] are heavily concentrated in Okinawa. Do you consider this situation to be an absurdity?
As one further question, you spoke of Japan as a whole taking this situation to heart and of reducing [Okinawa's] burden to the greatest extent possible, but please share your thoughts in more specific terms regarding what types of measures would lead to a reduction of the burden.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Although only to a limited degree, I have had the opportunity to read some books touching upon the history of Okinawa and related matters. Even if we look only at the post-war period, since Okinawa's reversion to Japan, the number of U.S. military bases on Okinawa has not been significantly reduced, despite significant reductions of such bases on the mainland, that is to say, in areas other than Okinawa. I myself as a politician was overwhelmed with regret at this fact, and I have stated this in Okinawa as well. In light of that, I do consider this situation to be one of these "absurdities," although I am not certain that the word "absurdity" expresses the situation correctly.
As for what I will be doing specifically having this view firmly in mind, not so long ago I had the opportunity to express my own views in Okinawa. My fundamental stance is that I will move forward with what I can as expeditiously as possible, towards the overall reduction of Okinawa's military base burden any way I can.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.